Navy warship decommissioned after 30 years of service

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SAN DIEGO -- The guided-missile frigate USS Vandegrift was decommissioned Thursday at Naval Base San Diego.

Frigates are being phased out in favor of littoral combat ships, which are maneuverable vessels designed for fighting in coastal waters.

The 30-year-old Vandegrift returned to San Diego in December from a deployment to fight narcotics smuggling in Central America. The crew intercepted nearly 20,000 pounds of cocaine and disrupted numerous other illegal drug shipments, according to the Navy.

Sailors also participated in community relations projects in Panama City -- helping to build a workshop for the blind, assisting an outreach group in refurbishing its building and spending time with children in the Aid for AIDS community.

The ship, commissioned Nov. 24, 1984, was named after Gen. Alexander Vandegrift, who led the 1st Marine Division to victory in the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal. He later became the 18th commandant of the Marine Corps.

Former crewmember Eric Donley told CBS8 that the ceremony gives Vandegrift sailors a chance to be together again.

“I've met up with a bunch of my friends from my time here, so it's great to see them,'' Donley said. “People come from all over the country for this day.''

Maj. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, current commander of the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, delivered the principal address at the decommissioning ceremony.